At Phillies Nation, we started out spring training pondering what the short and long-term ramifications would be if Alec Bohm is unable to stick at third base.
But as opening day approaches, the Phillies appear increasingly confident that Bohm is prepared to take a massive step forward defensively in his first full major league season.
“I think he’s in a really good place defensively, and it’s through a lot of hard work on his own, our staff and the minor league development…what they did with him from the start of his career has been really, really good,” manager Joe Girardi said Thursday. “Our player development did a great job, and our coaches up here have continued to work with him. And he’s made himself a really good third baseman.”
We don’t know exactly how much power Bohm is going to hit for at his peak, but since being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, his bat has been viewed as a pretty sure thing. He certainly looked like a legitimate offensive star in his rookie season, slashing .338/.400/.481 with 23 RBIs and an .881 OPS.
But while Bohm reinforced the belief that he’s going to hit in the middle of the Phillies order for years to come, he didn’t squash concerns that have existed about his ability to stick at the hot corner during his few years in the organization. There were some tribulations in the field for Bohm during his rookie season, but more trials. Bohm had -2 outs above average during the 2020 campaign, and -5 defensive runs saved. Mind you, he put those numbers up during a 60-game season, one that he wasn’t even on the major league roster to begin. If you project those numbers out to a full season, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
Still, you see flashes with Bohm. For whatever shortcomings he has defensively, he unquestionably possesses a plus arm. At times during his rookie season, Bohm would double clutch before throwing, seeming uncomfortable to unleash his arm.
But in Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the New York Yankees, Clint Frazier hit a sharp grounder to Bohm at third base. Bohm had to adjust quickly to get in a position to field the ball. It’s the type of play that he may have bungled in 2020. Instead, he fielded the ball cleanly and fired a strike to first base without hesitation.
Bohm’s defensive performance Thursday – and the strides he’s made as a whole – isn’t lost on his teammates.
“You definitely can tell that he’s got more confidence out there on the corner,” said Aaron Nola, who started Thursday’s game. “Yeah, he made some good plays [today] and he’s made some good plays this spring. We look forward to seeing some better defense out of him this year. I know it’s going to be better, he already looks a lot better, [and] a lot more confident.”
Perhaps they feel differently behind closed doors, but you get the sense that the Phillies belief in Bohm’s ability to become at least an adequate third baseman isn’t lip service. As excited as the Phillies are about Bohm offensively, they realistically believe the 24-year-old is going to vastly improve in the field in 2021.
“He’s making every type of play, every type of throw and he looks really good,” Girardi said.
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